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Home » Start Your Own Discussion Thread » Remembering Don

Pick any topic of interest to you. Topics related to Fountas & Pinnell works can be created directly in the Fountas & Pinnell forum.
10/1/2010 9:02:39 AM

Maura
Maura
Posts: 1
When someone as respected and influential as Don Graves dies, it’s extremely hard to live up to his standard for fresh writing. How does one get beyond the hackneyed phrases of “generous spirit,” “amazing mentor,” and “beloved friend”? Forgive me, Don, but I’m going to have to resort to a few clichés to express my love and gratitude.

First of all, anyone who was lucky enough to have known Don beyond the fact that he revolutionized writing instruction knows that when you sat across the table from him, he made you feel like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Generous spirit is a term used loosely, but Don was generous. He loved nurturing teacher talent and the careers of other author-educators. Teachers, principals, staff at Heinemann, and other educational organizations: as long as you truly cared for kids, he was at your side. He relished seeing others realize their dreams and made a lot of astounding educators flourish.

And Don loved his morning oatmeal. And his breakfasts with Don Murray. And his daily writing. And his work-outs. The woods of New Hampshire. His beloved Betty and his children and grandchildren. He loved all those emails with colleagues around the world, although he loved to grumble about it. We all loved Don as an author but most of all we loved him as a human being who walked the walk: he wrote daily, as he encouraged teachers and students to do. He wrote memoir, poetry, young adult novels in the blooming youth of his seventies. Does mentoring get any better than that?

“So? How about that!” Don used to say--this open-ended greeting that made us feel like a million bucks and had everything to do with celebrating life’s events big and small, happy and sad, and like a lighthouse off the New England coast, Don’s spirit and that glint in his eye are a beacon, always and always, as sure as the waves upon the shore.
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10/3/2010 12:19:31 PM

Joan Tornow
Joan Tornow
Posts: 4
Although I had heard recently from Betty that Don was ill, it was not until logging onto this site just now that I learned of his passing. I am so sad. But Don had a good life and made such a difference in the lives of so many. In a way he gave schools back to children ... making space for them to write and talk about what truly matters to them -- what is on their minds. I met Don when my two sons were in the Lee, NH, school where Don was doing current research in writer's workshop. My children benefitted from this curriculum, and I was soon in a graduate class of Dr. Graves, and reading his revolutionary book -- Writing: Teachers and Children at Work -- with absolute relish. Our class even gave him a party when the first boxes of books arrived from the printer. I remember purchasing an extra copy of the book for a colleague, and the cashier at the college bookstore was, herself, reading the book between customers! And said the book convinced her she wanted to be a teacher!

I also remember attending a meeting of nursery-school mothers, a meeting where Don was sharing with them some of his findings about early literacy. What struck me about this was the way that Don did not go to them with an air of, "Let me tell you about this." Rather, he was very quiet and indirectly elicting from THEM what was on THEIR minds. I just will never forget that. And, I also remember his example of a small moment ... describing to a class of children how he was eating a bagel that morning when some of the cream cheese fell on his tie. A small moment with humor, and a great man with the humility to tell a story well. He told stories that reminded us of our common humanity. And, he helped make schools -- and, for that matter, the world -- a place where stories could be composed, shared, and carried into the future.
May the story of Don's life be a story that will inspire us to do our best, to tell our stories, and to listen to the stories of others. Thank you, Don, for giving schools back to children. And for showing all of us the joy and discovery that is possible in every single classroom and family.
edited by Joan Tornow on 10/3/2010
edited by Joan Tornow on 10/3/2010

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Joan
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